www.mikeinmanila.info:a update

July 14, 2007 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

Beheadings in Basilan: Peace the real victim

Peace is real victim of the 10 hour gun battle that left scores dead and injured in Tipo – Tipo, Basilan – the battle started as an ambush – media observers say after a seven truck convoy passed through a village that had already evacuated – indicating – locals knew something bad was about to happen.

Blogger – Nancy Reyes wrote that the attack on Philippine Marines in the jungles of Tipo-Tipo on Basilan Island is about to see a major escalation of violence in ‘payback’ terms for the beheading of Marines – either wounded or already killed – 11 of the headless torso’s the MILF spokesman there told the Philippine Daily Inquirer – the MILF says were the alleged ‘after effect’ of rage over the brutal killing of a local Imam in the area.

[… Officially, the government is saying that they are not going to blame the MILF for the attack, but only seek justice in finding the “rogue elements” who helped the Abu Sayyaf kill and mutilate the Marines. In reality, it’s payback time….] finestkind clinic and fishmarket

But, even those in peace movement ranks see the attack as major escalation of brutality in the area. The Philippine Daily Inquirer which like many in Philippine media have often been critical of the Military in a recent editorial condemned the acts of beheadings – it went too far- whatever goodwill the MILF leadership had earned with rescues and help in defeating kidnappers in other areas has largely been lost by the statements made by local western Mindanao elements of the Moro rebel group on Basilan.

[…Last Tuesday’s ambush of a search-and-rescue military convoy in Albarka, Basilan — 14 Marines looking for kidnapped Italian missionary Fr. Giancarlo Bossi were killed, 10 of them beheaded — was a bestial act, the work of savages. To this deliberate provocation the national leadership must respond with both iron fist and open mind….] PDI Editorial Savages on the loose

However enraged and justified it may have been in the jungle concept of ‘justice’ for the alleged killing of a local Imam – it went too far for the public at large. The five to one ambush by some accounts goes beyond the normal.

The Catholic Church upset already over kidnapping of Fr. Brossi further has been enraged by the beheadings.

[… This is inhumanity at its worst. This is barbarism at its best. Even people in the deep far jungles of distant parts of the word are already becoming gradually conscious of how they should relate with one another for their own good and their common welfare….] viewpoints 

More stern words from a Archbishop below almost give a blessing for Government in the 90 per cent catholic country to not ‘turn the other way. That justice must be sought for those killed so brutally.

[…”The atrocity rightfully demands the recourse and application of commutative justice. No, it is definitely not to answer barbarism with an equally barbaric move.”] Archbishop Oscar Cruz

Locals worry on Basilan, which they say has barely just come back from the ravages of years of brutality of the ASG on the island. Now, Basilan, faces the strong possibility of renewed heavy fighting on a scale not seen since the days of the battles for hinterland areas that led to the by and large defeat of the ASG on Basilan.

The MILF has in the past condemned terrorism and fought against criminal elements – gaining their cause some public sympathy from even those fighting against them in the Military even for cooperation in the past versus criminal gangs.

If the MILF leadership does not want this action to get out of hand it should do its best to find those responsible and punish them. They say they will. But action is need now before new battles rage that may spin the situation out of control. Something holdouts and hardliners wanting to derail the peace process could use to escalate the clash into renewed fighting.

Mind you – several of those held hostage by the ASG in the past – noted that they were often held in areas near rebel camps – some of the MNLF others of the MILF – the rebels often did little but provide food for those taken hostage and try and ‘talk sense’ into the hard-line ASG members – who were often better armed than thier own fighters – fearing also internal infighting among relatives on the extremist and moderates side allowed safe passage for the ASG through their areas.

It is [possible that in the heat of battle – ASG members – or sympathetic to them could have entered the area or even teamed up with those fighting government forces. It as happened before in other parts of Mindanao. It is the most plausible explanation for the bestiality and brutality of the dismemberment of the corpses.

If indeed as some are saying in media reports from Zambo – some of those men were alive and wounded when they were beheaded – something that pathologists or forensic experts could easily prove – then the acts go into violations of the rules of war and conflict an area where the MILF for the most part has had a relatively good record of treating enemy wounded and later ‘trading’ them for thier own.

But in the overall scene of things – beheadings in the Mindanao conflict zone are not unheard of – covering the 2000 assault on camp abu bakar in Maguindanao province reports of beheaded corpses were among those killed were found areas of the battles..

Going further back the acts were also seen in other zones of the fight in all areas of Minsupala – Mindanao – Sulu – Palawan that the Moro rebels have fought in versus Philippine government forces.

But that was in the 1970’s and 80’s – and even further back during World War II – my mother who spent the War years protected by our relatives along with her brothers and sisters on Basilan -remembers seeing ’sacks of heads’ of Japanese stragglers and holdouts hunted down by Basileneo’s and others seeking the ‘fifty dollars a head’ bounty set by US liberation forces – a reward later changed to fifty dollars for each prisoner hastily by US forces who were confronted by scores of sacks of heads – some not even Japanese looking anymore after a few weeks.

Basilan has bounced back so far from the kidnappings and reign of terror that raged during the height of the ASG fight. Isabella now even has Jollibee branch and many stores along with plans of small shopping mall and two hotels in the works I am told as well as renewed investments. It would be sad to see such a long suffering island and people – a place I also consider home as my grandfather and great grandfather settled the area at the turn of the 20th century. It’s people are the reason I am here today – their grandparents protected my mother family from Japanese forces during World War II in the time of our grandfathers.

It also is where my Yakan blood flows from in my heart I know a part of me is part of those on Basilan. It is a island of rare beauty of nature – and is peaceful and tranquil charm could see it as major ecotourism destination someday – But as last weeks clashes have shown it is also often threatened by conflict.

Or now as Nancy puts it – ‘Payback’ – but as Christians we are taught that revenge is the Lords – not ours to met out.

Justice however is something people in a democracy seek for those killed in so brutal a fashion. The Mindanao Examiner – perhaps the best source of news down south – reports that the stage is set for a major escalation in fighting.

[… “The government will account for the perpetrators of this heinous attack in line with the rule of law, through the mechanisms of the peace process. The Armed Forces are duty-bound to hunt down and arrest those who treacherously killed and beheaded the soldiers,” President Arroyo …. } Mindanao Examiner

So the real victim is Peace – the brutal acts will be avenged the fighting and cycle of violence renewed. The battles will rage on and fight continue until justice is served and in the inevitable collateral damage that warfare brings with the drums and winds of war th the chance Mindanao has had for peace may be lost anew.

A solution to this would be a clear investigation of the actions perhaps a combined effort of Malaysin peace monitors and representatives of both the AFP and MILF to seek out those who beheaded the marines and as alleged the killers of the Imam.

For all we know they may be one and the same. Let justice be served – and payback could be peace. Something my grandmother’s island deserves after so many years of warfare.

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